First let’s talk about why your cat is scratching- scratching is a way of communicating for your cat. Cats often scratch when they are excited or happy. They have scent pads on their paws that release a pheromone when they scratch that says they were there. Scratching is also a way of exercising for your cat. It is a very normal and natural behavior that is difficult and unnecessary to stop. The key is to train them to scratch in an appropriate place.
What kind of scratching post should I use?
Every cat is different but most adult cats prefer a vertical surface that exceeds the cat’s height when they are stretched out. Kittens often prefer both vertical and horizontal surfaces. With both types you will want to make sure that the scratching post is secure and will not wobble or slide. The material on your scratching post is important as well, cats really like to sink their claws into things when they scratch. Using materials like sisal, cardboard or carpeting is a good idea. Some cats even prefer using the back side of carpet.
How do I train my cat or kitten to use a scratching post?
The most important part of scratching post success lies in the location. Many cats get excited at the return of a family member so placing one post by the most used door is a great idea. By doing this, they can express their excitement over your return by scratching the post. Another great place for a scratching post is where your cat sleeps this gives them a place to stretch out and scratch when they wake. You will want to interact with your cat near the posts. Use dangling toys to tempt them to play and swat at the post, as they paw at the toy, the scent pads on their feet will leave their mark which will entice them to return to that spot. Always offer verbal praise and even a treat when you notice your cat using the scratching post. This positive reinforcement works well with kittens especially.
How can I deter my cat from scratching inappropriate things?
The most important thing you can do is provide plenty of appropriate opportunities for your cat to exercise and scratch. You will also want to keep their nails trimmed fairly short if you are concerned that they may damage furniture or carpets. Another option is to place silicone nail covers on your cat’s nails that will protect your furnishings.
There are many deterrent products that you can use to protect your furniture while you are in the training phase. Cats tend to not like sticky surfaces so using double stick tape or a commercially available product called ScratchNot will work well on some furniture and rugs. You can also place aluminum foil on some areas since they do not like the sound or feel of it. Sprays that smell of citrus act well as a deterrent for cats as they find the smell off-putting will generally avoid it.